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February 21, 2011

"State parole system called a 'sad mess'"

The title of this post is the headline of this local article discussing Massachusetts' parole system. Here are excerpts:

Two recent instances in which men paroled from multiple life sentences went on to re-offend has one member of the Governor's Council questioning whether Massachusetts needs to scrap the entire parole system.

Mary Ellen Manning, who represents the North Shore on the board that approves judicial and Parole Board appointments, said yesterday that the current system "is a sad mess" that ought to be replaced with something similar to the federal parole system.  And sentencing ought to be done within strict guidelines, she believes....

"There's too much discretion at both the sentencing level and at the parole level," said Manning. "There's a lack of uniformity in the way people are sentenced and paroled."...

She would like to see the current sentencing and parole system replaced with one that requires defendants to serve a sentence in full, followed by a period of supervised release, such as is done in the federal court system.  That way, a convicted offender would still be under supervision for a period of time, but there would be some consistency in the way people are sentenced.

Paul Gormley, a Marblehead lawyer, adjunct professor of criminal justice at North Shore Community College and a doctoral student in law and public policy at Northeastern University, said that the system still needs a certain amount of flexibility.  For one thing, the idea that parole is possible gives some inmates a greater incentive to behave in prison, as well as to participate in whatever rehabilitation programs are available, said Gormley.

Gormley concedes that there are defendants who "can game the system," but said that hard and fast rules about sentencing take away any ability to recognize someone who has made genuine efforts to redeem himself. "We can't say what anyone's going to be like, with any certainty, in the future," said Gormley.

February 21, 2011 at 01:36 PM | Permalink


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Would be a big mistake to go to a regimen like feds have...There is no real incentive of program participation with unreasonable sentences....Then when you get out, you can go back to serve a still very lengthy period if your supersion wasn't perfecto....

After 25-26 yrs of failure, I would think that the states would know better than copy the feds failed and costly mess that they can't even pass legislation on lately, to modify...But thaqts just the feds I guess....

Posted by: Josh | Feb 21, 2011 2:02:01 PM

"'We can't say what anyone's going to be like, with any certainty, in the future,' said Gormley."

Then we have no business gambling on them. Future victims are not less human or less deserving of the law's vigilance because they cannot be identified by name now.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 21, 2011 4:58:43 PM

I think that the people that have made effort do deserve a chance to make things right. Of coarse there are certain crimes that could not be forgiven but who's to say the person even deserved that amount of time they got? I think if the person has served a reasonable amount of their sentence then they should be considered. I hope this mess gets figured out soon.

Posted by: Christina | May 23, 2011 12:28:49 PM

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